Should Internet Traffic Be Monitored?
As the world considers how to address legal matters online, one nation has taken some restrictive steps to eliminate illegal activity in cyberspace. Sweden recently passed a law that requires operators of electronic bulletin board systems to monitor the messages posted on their services. Operators will also be required to remove messages that incite rebellion or racial agitation, contain child pornography, or depict violence in a way that is illegal under that nation's laws. Further, operators are now required to remove content in situations where a user has clearly infringed the copyright of another person or entity.
Merely providing a network would not expose the provider to liability and delivery of messages within a government agency or a company would be exempt. Messages intended for one recipient or a designated set of recipients apparently would also be exempt from the law. However, this is the first official step in any nation's domestic laws to create a "vicarious liability" standard for those who operate Internet services. Legislation is pending in the United States that would exempt providers from vicarious liability. Canada and the European Union are currently crafting similar proposals.
On a similar note, a French court has ruled that Internet service providers (ISPs) can be held partially liable for content placed on their networks, even if such World Wide Web sites are client-operated (Lefebure v. Lacambre, Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris). A French model had sued an ISF for allowing a client to publish nude photographs of her on a web site operated via the ISP's server.
Presiding Judge Jean Jacques Gomez ruled that "it seems necessary to state that the ISP is obliged to guarantee the morality of those that he provides service to [sic]...
The service provider has the same capacity as any other users of the network. The ability to go to the site, verify its content, and consequently the capacity to take measures to end any nuisances that the site may be causing to third parties." Gomez went on to note that ISPs can and must assure that clients are aware of laws covering privacy, intellectual property rights, and the collection of information, among other issues.
While the ISP in question had already closed the offending web site, fudge Gomez went further to require that the ISP "put in place a mechanism to ensure the impossibility of diffusion of the photos in question from any site offered by the service. …